Ethnography: An Example of Transparent Reporting

A portion of the following is an excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 221).

Ethnography: An Example of TransparencyThe important component in research design concerning transparency has been discussed many times in Research Design Review. And indeed, Transparency is the third component of the Total Quality Framework. The integrity and ultimate Usefulness of qualitative research hinges on exposing design and data collection details in the final reporting documents.

An excellent example of transparency can be found in “Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation” (Small et al., 2006). Here, the authors report on a participant–observation study that was conducted to complement a broader study concerning the impact of enforcement on illicit drug-use-related behavior. Their description of what went on in the field is a good example of giving the reader a clear understanding of the field activity:

Trained observers spent time “hanging out” in and around locales where drug sales and injecting took place, talking to and interacting with drug users. Discussions, occurrences, and observations were documented in fieldnotes. Observational data recorded in extensive fieldnotes included: location and character of public injection venues; syringe acquisition, availability, and disposal; public drug consumption patterns for injection and non-injection drugs; and description of public drug users. . . . Each observational field visit incorporated two hours of participant–observation conducted in streets and alleys as well as time spent writing fieldnotes to document observations and discussions. A target area and schedule of observations was devised, drawing on previous ethnographic research examining needle exchange practices. . . . The observations targeted both street-side and in the alleyways along 10 blocks of Hastings Street, where numerous clusters of drug market and consumption activity were identified by ethnographic mapping techniques. . . . Observations were distributed between morning, afternoon, and evening hours, with an increased number of observations occurring around monthly welfare payments when public drug scene and police activity increases. As some drug market and using locales shifted and new ones emerged, ethnographic data collection activities were altered accordingly to survey the largest portion of the open drug using scene, including areas far outside the central Hastings corridor. (pp. 86–87)


Small, W., Kerr, T., Charette, J., Schechter, M. T., & Spittal, P. M. (2006). Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 85–95.

Qualitative Research: A Call for Collective Action

Among thCollective action in qualitative researche many keynote speakers, presentations, and posters at the American Psychological Association 2020 Virtual Convention (which is available online until August 1, 2021), the program includes a symposium on “Questioning Qualitative Methods – Rethinking Accepted Practices.” This session includes three presentations: “Do We Have Consensus About Consensus? Reconceptualizing Consensus as Epistemic Privilege” (by Heidi Levitt), “Is Member-Checking the Gold Standard of Quality Within Qualitative Research?” (by Sue Motulsky), and “Is Replication Important for Qualitative Researchers?” (by Rivka Tuval-Mashiach).

Ruthellen Josselson serves as discussant for this session. In her remarks, Dr. Josselson uses the symposium theme of “rethinking accepted practices” to discuss the second-tier status or “marginalization” of qualitative research, particularly in the field of psychology, and suggests a way to think differently about working in qualitative research. Josselson begins by acknowledging the core realities of qualitative research. Drawing on the panelists’ presentations – and not unlike an earlier article in Research Design Review on the “10 Distinctive Qualities of Qualitative Research” – she highlights unique aspects of qualitative research such as the multiple, contextual nature of “truth,” the absence of isolated variables to measure, and the impossibility of exact replication. These realities, however, do not or should not condemn qualitative research to the periphery of the research methods arena.

To drive qualitative research away from the periphery and its marginalized status, Josselson offers an approach centered on “collectivism” or the idea of a concerted effort among qualitative researchers to investigate phenomena together with the objective of making meaningful contributions toward addressing the research issue. In this spirit, qualitative researchers set out Read Full Text

The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Case for Sharing Data

The October 2019 issue of American Psychologist included two articles on the famed Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) condThe Stanford Prison Experimentucted by Philip Zimbardo in 1971. The first, “Rethinking the Nature of Cruelty: The Role of Identity Leadership in the Stanford Prison Experiment” (Haslam, Reicher, & Van Bavel, 2019), discusses the outcomes of the SPE within the context of social identity and, specifically, identity leadership theories espousing, among other things, the idea that “when group identity becomes salient, individuals seek to ascertain and to conform to those understandings which define what it means to be a member of the relevant group” (p. 812) and “leadership is not just about how leaders act but also about their capacity to shape the actions of followers” (p. 813). It is within this context that the authors conclude from their examination of the SPE archival material that the “totality of evidence indicates that, far from slipping naturally into their assigned roles, some of Zimbardo’s guards actively resisted [and] were consequently subjected to intense interventions from the experimenters” (p. 820), resulting in behavior “more consistent with an identity leadership account than…the standard role account” (p. 819).

In the second article, “Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment” (Le Texier, 2019), the author discusses his content analysis study of the documents and audio/video recordings retrieved from the SPE archives located at Stanford University and the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron, including a triangulation phase by way of in-depth interviews with SPE participants and a comparative analysis utilizing various publications and texts referring to the SPE. The purpose of this research was to learn whether the SPE archives, participants, and comparative analysis would reveal “any important information about the SPE that had not been included in and, more importantly, was in conflict with that reported in Zimbardo’s published accounts of the study” (p. 825). Le Texier derives a number of key findings from his study that shed doubt on the integrity of the SPE, including the fact that the prison guards were aware of the results Read Full Text